the minerva louise series by Janet Morgan Stoeke
Nov 30th, 2007 by wrekehavoc

we finish up books-a-go-go with a local author (well, to me, anyway), janet morgan stoeke.

do you have a four-year-old hanging around the house? then run, don’t walk, to your local library and pick up some books from the minerva louise series by Janet Morgan Stoeke, an author who actually lives in the next town over. i would lovelovelove to run into her in the supermarket and ask her how she gets into the brain of preschoolers!

the thing i loathe about books for preschoolers is that there seems to be so many that veer off into the direction of either books for boys or books for girls. you know — you end up reading about trucks or cars or dinosaurs when you’ve a guy, or princesses or fairies for girls. not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but it gets a bit wearing. i mean, after learning about 50,000 ways to talk about a fire truck, a parent can wish that they’d spontaneously combust.

but the minerva louise books — BC loved them when she was 4, and now, jools adores them! (in retrospect, it’s probably a sign of the apocalypse when they both agree on anything.)

minerva louise is a very silly, and possibly nearsighted, hen. she ends up mistaking a baby for a bunny; a school for a farm; and mittens for a hat. the illustrations make it quite clear to anyone why she would make her errors, and yet the fact that she makes these errors make little kids giggle and giggle. i love to read stoeke’s minerva books with my kids, if only because i love to hear my kids laugh 🙂

a new one just came out about christmastime; i’m jewish, but you can bet i’ll be out there looking for it.

Minerva Louise and the Colorful Eggs

Minerva Louise

A Hat for Minerva Louise

Minerva Louise at School

Minerva Louise at the Fair

Minerva Louise and the Red Truck

Minerva Louise and Her Farmyard Friends

mo willems and his bag of willems goodness
Nov 29th, 2007 by wrekehavoc

pigeons get a bad rap.

dastardly and muttley were always trying to stop that pigeon. woody allen called them rats with wings. and G-d knows no one wants to be called a stool pigeon.

it’s a wonder a pigeon doesn’t develop a complex.

and mo willems’ pigeon does just that. he wants to drive a bus. no dice. he wants to eat a hot dog by himself. no dice. he wants to stay up late! nope. not happening. all not happening because your preschooler will be laughing so hard as s/he yells NO! every time poor pigeon pleads with him/her about it.

willems, a veteran of sesame street, knows preschoolers. and the humor is funny enough that jaded grownups (now, who could that be around here?) will crack up (especially at moments when the duckling comes in and asks whether the hot dog tastes like chicken). there’s a wonderful, raw quality to the illustrations.

willems now has branched out in pigeon board books (as well as some of his other titles, like Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale and Leonardo, the Terrible Monster (the latter, a major fave of jools’). you really can’t go wrong with any of them.

but in my house, that pigeon can’t be stopped. and he can stay up as late as he wants.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!

I'm Mighty! by Kate Mcmullan and Jim Mcmullan
Nov 28th, 2007 by wrekehavoc

got a preschooler, especially of the male kind? then you need the McMullans. they absolutely get the favorite feelings of little kids — i’m tough, i’m stinky, and i’m dirty. what kid doesn’t want to be those? different vehicles show how you don’t have to be big to be cool. i especially love reading i’m mighty with a new york accent. it drives jools up the wall, but i don’t care. their writing is so authentic and wonderful, it makes me happy to pretend i’m gross, too.

(remember. i said p r e t e n d. i don’t want word to get out that i’m unclean.)

I’m Mighty!

I Stink!

I’m Dirty!

ian falconer's Olivia
Nov 27th, 2007 by wrekehavoc

may i first say how much BC adored olivia when she was a preschooler? i mean LOVED! olivia is a cheeky little pig who isn’t quite perfection – she’s a little bossy and tough. and in the end, her mom notes that olivia wears her out — but that she still loves her. a message any parent could appreciate.

i also loved the fact that there were all sorts of artistic and cultural icons sprinkled throughout the work. olivia imitating jackson pollack is a moment i treasure — after reading this book, we went to the national gallery, where, thanks to this book, BC was able to spot jackson pollack easily on the wall (and i was nearly able to corrupt several young minds talking about painting while drunk. not me painting, silly. pollack.) falconer’s illustrations are among the best i’ve ever found in children’s literature. i love them that much.

that being said, olivia seems to be turning into a cottage industry. olivia counts, olivia reads, why, i’m waiting for olivia potty trains her younger brother. i don’t bother with those.

but i definitely bother with olivia. move over, wilbur, or olivia might kick your porky behind.


Olivia Saves the Circus

Olivia … and the Missing Toy

Olivia Forms a Band

Olivia Helps with Christmas (Olivia Series)

cars and trucks and things that go
Nov 26th, 2007 by wrekehavoc

richard scarry has been around since i was a wee tike. i remember that along with Highlights Magazine, his books were a fixture of dentists’ and pediatricians’ offices. i found them incredibly boring (just like Highlights — did anyone ever actually read them??) and wondered whether any child in his or her right mind would read them. i mean, who the hell wanted a book that lacked a storyline? it was never my schtick, and BC didn’t care at all about them, either.

so it came as a major revelation when jools started to enjoy richard scarry. it was a loathsome chore, to be sure, to have to read through the books, chockablock filled with pictures and words. clearly scarry had gone to a ton of trouble drawing and thinking. but it all left me cold.

that is, until cars and trucks and things that go. see, the pig family is going on a picnic. and along the way, there are a zillion types of cars, some of which are, well, extraordinarily silly (a carrot car?? a pencil car??)), much to the delight of a preschooler. then, there’s poor old officer flossie, trying to catch up with naughty dingo, who not only speeds but mauls the poor parking meters. go, officer flossie, go! and then, there’s the added delight of searching for goldbug on every page, out waldo-ing where’s waldo by about 10 years.

[feminist girl here likes the fact that the prime fixer of cars happens to be mistress mouse. she can fix anything. would that i could.]

anyway, while not my favorite book, i actually enjoy reading it in bits and pieces, if only to see how my son giggles every time he sees yet another silly car.

cars and trucks and things that go

mr. lunch borrows a canoe
Nov 25th, 2007 by wrekehavoc

i heart mr. lunch.

the team of J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh have created a book where the storyline really tests you, the grownup, to suspend all your linear storyline intentions. it’s crazy and kooky, but oh so fun. the illustration, which is inventive and offbeat (and i mean that in the best way possible), really shines, in my opinion — i understand it’s computer generated, yet there’s something so hip yet campy about it. i wish i could put my finger on it.

there’s a short series, but my favorite is mr. lunch borrows a canoe, precisely because the storyline is so zany. canine mr. lunch, you see, is a professional bird chaser. he ends up in a canoe, gets frightened by a bear (who is only trying to take a picture of the famous mr. lunch), and paddles all the way to venice. there, he ends up clearing a palazzo filled with birds, gets a medal, and then goes home.

yeah, i know. it ain’t shakespeare. but it delighted jools and his sister. any book that can hold the attention of a 4 year old AND an 8 year old simultaneously is a winner in my book. and me, i pretended i was on a little mental trip. it was nice to let go of reality for five minutes and end up back in a happy place 😉

Mr. Lunch Borrows a Canoe

Free Lunch

make way for ducklings
Nov 24th, 2007 by wrekehavoc

okay, okay, preschool book review week starts in earnest with an old chestnut that i feel gets overlooked nowadays — robert mccloskey’s make way for ducklings. it isn’t hip. it isn’t trendy. it isn’t cool.

but boy, is it a great, great book for preschoolers.

the story is one that most little kids can comprehend — duck parents are looking for a good place to raise a family. they finally find one. the dad has to go away. the mom teaches the kids and takes them on a tumultuous walk. dad comes home. everyone quacks happily ever after.

i cannot pick up this book without a few things happening.

1) i imitate an irish policeman whenever i read the voices of the cops in the book. (for you bugs bunny fans out there: “hey clancy, let’s take the boys and surrrrround the house!”)

2) i dissolve into laughter, along with my kids, whenever i have to read the ducklings’ names (lack, mack, quack, pack, oh, who the hell knows them all, i just know they rhyme). and:

3) we end up reading it twice in a row. at least.

the brown-tone drawings are absolutely stunning, earning this bad boy a caldecott. no, they just don’t write them like this anymore.

admittedly, i am a mom who enjoys the hip books; but i must confess that, in the same way i am beginning to rediscover the old, corny Disney movies (hayley mills, anyone?) and enjoying them, i am discovering older storybooks from my childhood, wistfully remembering how it took me longer to wise up and become the cynical chick i am today.

maybe if we read more mccloskey books, my kids will stay younger longer.

Make Way for Ducklings

Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin & Harry Bliss
Nov 23rd, 2007 by wrekehavoc

one more gap-bridging book — one that both BC and jools adore!

people adore the click clack moo books by doreen cronin, and i would agree. there’s something wonderful about subversive cows and ducks taking over the joint. but take a gander (har-dee-har, i’m such a card!) at another book by cronin that makes jools nearly pee himself. ok, so that’s no mean feat, but it nearly makes me pee myself, too!

diary of a worm is a silly little journal filled with deep observations about life as an annolid. so yeah, worms aren’t fascinating, right? well, maybe not, but this little worm, illustrated so amusingly by bliss, makes some observations that are worthy of the monty python troupe. two favorites:

1) when the worm gets in trouble with his mother for telling his sister that her face looks exactly like her rear. (she’s a worm. it does.)

2) when the worms do the hokey pokey. a challenge when you consider how they’re built.

apparently, cronin also takes on diaries of other creeply crawlies. i can’t wait to check them out. that is, if jools ever lets me return this bad boy.

Diary of a Worm

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book by lauren child
Nov 22nd, 2007 by wrekehavoc

alert the media: i am now hereby bridging the gap between tween girl books and preschool books. just cos every now and again, i have to find a book that works for BC and jools. not an easy task, i would add. but someone’s got to figure it out, and why not me!

as you might figure from yesterday’s post, i am a HUGE, and i do mean HUGE fan of lauren child. not even the charlie and lola series, which brought her some bit of fame thanks to disney picking up the cartoon, but all the clarice bean books, which i discussed yesterday.

but if you’ve a kid who either:

a) loves fairy tales;

b) destroys books; or

c) all of the above,

then you’ve got to read Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book. child examines what happens when her hero ends up in a fairytale storybook that he has doodled on, torn a bit, and basically manhandled. a modern-day alice falls through the looking glass, and boy, the consequences are hilarious!

c’mon: if you were supposed to be a fairytale mainstay and someone doodled a mustache on you, you’d be pissed, too.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book

clarice bean series by lauren child
Nov 21st, 2007 by wrekehavoc

tween girls book week concludes with a major fave, the clarice bean books by lauren childs. some of these are chapter books, some are picture books, but all are amazingly cheeky fun.

there’s something so hilariously fragile and funny about clarice and her family. her father is too busy at work; her mother is, well, a bit self-involved; her surly teenage brother is in cave-boy mode; her sister is surgically-attached to the phone; her little brother, minal cricket, is a handful; her grandfather has more than a few senior moments; and her uncle ted, the fireman, is simply a hunky hoot. anyone who has to balance family and hysteria can relate to the over-the-top things that happen in the books. child is perfectly attuned to a girl of a certain age who has to deal with calamity in her daily life. i suspect this is what my house is like on certain days.

incidentally, if you’ve been weaned on charlie and lola (and want to run screaming whenever it shows up on the disney channel), please please PLEASE don’t let that stop you from checking out clarice (i’ve put some faves below, but there are more.) she’s simply THAT FUNNY.

if your kid has finished every junie b. jones book there is, it’s time to graduate to clarice bean. you may find that you like the book, though, even more than your daughter does. i can’t wait to take them out and read them again… (if BC will let me.)

utterly me, clarice bean

clarice bean spells trouble

clarice bean, guess who’s babysitting?

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